As originally posted on MSNMoneyCanada
Naming your business is akin to naming a child or getting a tattoo. It’s (almost) permanent and changing it requires a huge effort. So, it’s best to do it right the first time. A good name is memorable, gives your target audience an indication of what your business does, and performs a hefty portion of the promotion and marketing for you.
A bad name is forgettable, confusing, and causes you to spend advertising money clarifying what your business does.
Here are five steps to take to make sure you pick the right business name.
1. Make a list
List all of the things you want your brand to convey. These can be descriptive adjectives, emotional responses or things you want people to think when they see the name. Basically it’s anything that you want to bring to mind when people see or hear your brand’s name.
You likely won’t be able to choose a name that conveys every single thing you want your brand to convey, so prioritize your list and see how many of your items you can check off with the various names you think of.
2. Consider the connection
Think about your primary customers, what makes your business unique, and what you want your customers to take away from their experience with your brand. Are you after a purely emotional connection with them, or do you want them to think of your brand as something functional that they need in their lives?
If you’re after that emotional connection, what words will express the sentiment you want your customers to feel? If you are going for functional, how can you tell your customers clearly and concisely what your brand does to make their lives better while also being catchy enough to grab their attention.
I once started an internet marketing company with an animal name in it–RhinoForce–because I liked the thought of a rhino charging and getting to its goal once it’s in motion. Nobody I talked to knew we were in marketing. But having to explain the name actually worked to my advantage because after they heard the story about it, the name (and image of a charging rhino) stuck with them.
It’s good to have some kind of story behind your name for when people ask. It’s something that clients are often interested in, I find, and a story behind the name is a good way to connect with them and help with branding.
I’ve known fellow entrepreneurs who have chosen names based on things like the street they lived on when they started their business or the name of a local beach or something from their own past. These can be good “storified” name ideas. David Tran, founder of Huy Fong Foods Inc, which makes Sriracha, named his company after the boat that brought him to the United States from Hong Kong.
3. Narrow it down
Once you know what you want your brand to say via its name, you can make your list of potential brand names. Don’t hold back. Make that list as long as you need to. All options are on the table when you’re brainstorming.
When you do have a nice, long list to go through, parse it down to a few that are not too long, not too confusing, but also not too short or cute to accurately give people a taste of what your brand is about.
4. Test it out
It’s a good idea to try your preferred name out on acquaintances, friends, family, investors and any other people who can give you an honest opinion. You can use Google Survey or tools like PollFish where you can ask hundreds of people their opinions for a few hundred dollars. Make a list of all your name ideas and then ask your target demographic about which one they prefer.
5. Do your homework
Of course, having the best name in the world is for naught if it’s unavailable. Even before you pick a name, you should make sure it’s even useable before you get too excited about it. Check to see if the name is registered as a business in your territory. You can check with patent and trademark offices in your country.
Check to see if related URLs are available. Decide on your website address before you register the URL. You should be able to use at least part of your brand name or some variation of your brand name in your URL.
You may also want to do a little research and make sure your name isn’t offensive in another language if you have any aspirations of expanding into non-English speaking markets.
Choosing a business name can be frustrating, but it can also be incredibly enjoyable. Have some fun with it.